Christine Cottrell escaped to Aruba’s sunshine from the Canadian cold, where the locals are as warm as the weather! Commonly referred to as “Bonbini Aruba!” which translated from the native tongue, Papiamentu, means, “One Happy Island!”
If you ever want a Caribbean break, then Aruba is the place to visit. Unlike other Caribbean islands, Aruba’s southerly location lies outside of the reach of the typical seasonal hurricanes. It’s a friendly island with welcoming locals who speak Papiamentu, a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English and French, not to mention African influences.
Palm Beach, Aruba’s most tourist-oriented shore, boasts most of the island’s hotels – a long line of high-rises stretching behind the white sand. Nearly two miles long, the beach is jammed with sun-kissed tourists, barefoot restaurants and overwater bars, dive shops, and day-sail charters, as well as water sport operations that will rent just about anything that floats!
The island’s beach “gem” however, is Druif Beach. This long, narrow, oval-shaped stretch of ivory sand is home to the more casual low-rise resorts. Here, rooms are just steps away from the Caribbean waters. Though not too far from bustling downtown Oranjestad, Druif Beach is a quiet and relaxing spot for sunning and socializing. The water here is even clearer than Palm Beach.
Speaking of clear water, Aruba is home to plenty of exotic underwater sights, from shipwrecks to coral reefs. The sights are made even more amazing by the incredible visibility of the water around Aruba’s edge. One of the popular snorkeling/diving tours is offered by RedSail – located right on Palm Beach, directly in front of the Hyatt. They take you on a leisurely 3 hour excursion, (by alcohol-loaded catamaran) to the Antilla Wreck – A German freighter, purposely submerged in 1941 when threatened by Allied forces. This wide-open ship allows divers to easily swim through it. One of the drawbacks is its popularity; lines sometimes form for photo opportunities. Nonetheless, you’ll see a variety of sea life including octopi and eels.
For “landlubbers” and shoppers, there’s the Californian Lighthouse followed by Oranjestad. The lighthouse is named for the The California, a U.S. ship that sunk about two years previous to its construction in 1910. The site offers spectacular sunsets as the final shades of sunshine give way to a brilliant azure canopy. Perched on a high seaside elevation, the lighthouse has become one of Aruba’s scenic trademarks and offers a picture perfect view of the island’s western coastline of sandy beaches, rolling sand dunes and rocky coral shorelines.
Oranjestad is a shopper’s heaven, and pretty to boot. Frosted cookie-like Dutch architectures house Prada, Louis Vuitton, Coach and Dolce & Gabanna … all at low taxed prices. And diamond stores, sparkling on every corner.
Aruba’s hotels run the range from “budget” to “ultra high end.” For cost-conscious travelers, there’s Palm Beach’s Holiday Inn Sunspree, a vibrant, family-oriented, all-inclusive resort. The quality of rooms and food is reflected in the price. Buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner are “average” to say the least. And the dining room offers very little ambience, so if atmospheric dining is your thing, then maybe this isn’t the place for you. Staff is super-friendly and helpful, rooms are basic and clean.
For the more discerning traveller, there’s the popular monolithic giant, The Riu Palace Hotel. You can’t miss it. The pinnacle of Palm Beach, it towers over the other resorts. Food options are better here, and more plentiful. Premium drinks also flow, unlike the Holiday Inn, where local grog is the way to go.
The Hyatt and The Westin offer even more upscale residences, without the all-inclusive madness (although this is an option at extra cost.) The rooms are what you’d expect from these quality resorts, and the food offered in their restaurants is truly up to scratch.
Altogether, Aruba has much to offer in terms of beach, sand, sea, all-inclusive resort island, for all pockets! I’d recommend this quiet, relaxing, and very sunny island to anyone looking to get “away from it all!”